My sponsorship journey began in July last year, after I had the opportunity to travel around New Zealand with the Mwangaza Children’s Choir from Uganda as part of my job at Tearfund. Spending time with the children and their leaders definitely placed on my heart the country of Uganda and the idea of sponsoring a child.

Enter into my life Joy and Leticia – my two beautiful girls from Uganda – and the beginning of an amazing and humbling sponsorship journey! Little did I know that just a few months later I would be embarking on a whirlwind trip to Uganda, along with my friend Anna, to visit my very good friends from the choir and also my sponsor children. I was able to spend a day with each of my sponsor girls, who live on opposite sides of Uganda’s bustling capital city, Kampala.

Here is a little glimpse from those two days:

Hello

When I arrived at the first Compassion project, I was greeted by an understandably cautious and shy young Joy. After all, she is only six! Leticia, on the other hand, has just turned 16, so at her project I was greeted by an older (still cautious and shy) young lady! But it didn’t stop them both from welcoming me with the sweetest, most sincere hugs.

The Compassion project

As Joy and Leticia live in different regions of Uganda, I had the opportunity to visit two different Compassion projects. And while the location and surrounding neighbourhoods differed, with a different group of children at each, the two projects were very much the same in terms of mission, purpose, outcomes and genuine investment in their children.

New Zealander, Rachel Jenkins, holds her sponsor child in Kampala, Uganda. Her sponsor child's brother waves to camera beside them.

For young Joy, Saturday is when she and the other children at the project come together to spend time at the centre. This is a day of singing, dancing, games, learning, devotions, time with friends, and sharing lunch together. This is also when they write letters and celebrate together about the arrival of letters from their sponsors.

New Zealander, Rachel Jenkins, stands with her arm around her teenage sponsor child in Kampala, Uganda.

For Leticia, since she is older, she attends the project mainly during the school holidays. At this age Compassion also teaches them practical skills such as jewellery or shoe making, flower arranging, cooking, and how to play a musical instrument. This means that by the time they graduate the programme, they leave with practical life skills on top of their school education. This helps set them up for the next stage of their life and also provides greater opportunities to generate income.

I also had the opportunity to look through the personal folders of both my sponsor children. Each child in the project has one. It contains all of their school report cards to date, detailed notes from their yearly medical check-ups, dental records, all the letters that they have written to their sponsors over their time in the project and much more! Being the older one of the two, Leticia’s folder was larger, and it was amazing to see how she had developed and grown over the years. I felt like I could catch up on her life even though I have only been sponsoring her for a few months!

Visiting their homes

The next portion of the day granted us the opportunity to visit the homes of both of my sponsor children. As we travelled to their respective homes, I felt a mix of nerves and anticipation. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was so encouraged and humbled by the warmth and hospitality of both families. From being offered the only chair in the room, to watching a family dance because they were so happy to meet me, and being proudly shown the folder that contains all my letters to date, to the many, many hugs, photos, smiles and expressions of gratitude. It was an incredible privilege.

Leticia’s 16th birthday was a couple of days before my visit, so I arranged for a birthday cake that we could share together with her family. It was a beautiful celebration and the cake was shared by everyone in the immediate area around her house.

Before leaving, both my sponsor children and their families presented me with a gift. They said it’s not much, but that they wanted to thank me for coming to visit and also to thank me for loving and valuing their child, and providing her with opportunity and hope for the future. This was so incredibly special!

Final reflections

It’s hard to put into words the mixture of emotions I felt during these two days. My two sponsor children are at different life stages and growing up in differing circumstances. Different to one another, and different to myself.

But despite the ups and downs that Joy, Leticia and their families have endured in this journey we call life, I felt so encouraged and humbled by their faith, hope, joy and commitment to each other. It was also encouraging seeing that Compassion is on this life journey with them. They are partnering with the children, their families and their community, encouraging them, empowering them and providing opportunities for them to learn, grow and flourish.


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